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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Corinthians 11

Verses 1-34

The Duty of Praising People

1 Corinthians 11:2

What is praise? There is all the difference in the world between praise and flattery. Praise is commendation of character, the expressed approval of conduct. Flattery is false or insincere praise. Flattery is essentially a lie; it is poisoned honey. The Bible utters most terrible denunciations against flattery. Yet the Book, which waxes fierce against flattery, enjoins praise; and in this text of mine Paul's voice rings out like a clarion in the gladdened ears of the Corinthian Church. 'Now I praise you.'

I. Praise is a Duty. How Scripture illustrates this! God is ever praising man in this inspired history of humanity now by direct message, now through human lips. Christ loved to praise. How He commended all who were in any degree commendable! (1) Conscience sanctions the duty of praising people. Conscience does not side with Epictetus when he says, 'We should not praise any one'. It confirms Paul when he cries, 'I praise you'. (2) Praise encourages effort towards higher good. 'Praise,' says George Meredith, 'is our fructifying sun.' (3) Praise is a duty because it raises our appreciation of humanity. No pessimist can win man. (4) Praise of others discourages self-hood.

II. Praise is a Difficult Duty. (1) The self-centred find it all but impossible. (2) The jealous cannot praise. (3) The unsympathetic feel it peculiarly difficult to praise. Many of us neglect the culture of our sympathies. We know men when we feel with them. As Smetham remarks in one of his letters, 'Pure love to every soul of man is the true standpoint from which to judge men'. He who allows himself to become unsympathetic freezes the fountain of praise. (4) The narrow-minded seldom praise.

III. Praise is a Much-Neglected Duty. (1) Is it not neglected in the Church? If pastors and people praised with mutual love, if grumbling vanished and praises resounded, how happy and prosperous would the Churches be! (2) In the home this duty is glaringly neglected. (3) Praise is a duty much neglected in society.

IV. Praise is a Duty which requires Discrimination. (1) It must not be excessive. (2) It must not exclude faithfulness. (3) Nor must we praise so as to arouse envy. (4) Beware of praising for the sake of popularity. Watch thy motive, O soul of mine!

V. Praise is a Duty which tests Character. (1) You test yourself when you praise people. (2) You test the receiver of your praise when you eulogise him. J. M. Barrie, in one of his lovely books, says: 'The praise that comes of love does not make us vain, but humble rather'.

Be it ours to say, 'I praise you' often as we may! But let us be solicitous to give God the glory for all the praises we receive.

Dinsdale T. Young, Unfamiliar Texts, p. 1.

References. XI. 2. Penny Pulpit, No. 1492, p. 73. XI. 3. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 285; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 152. XI. 7. Ibid. vol. iii. pp. 139, 140; ibid. (5th Series), vol. iv. pp. 119, 164, 168. XI. 10. Ibid. vol. x. p. 139.

The Rights of Woman

1 Corinthians 11:11

There were three great doctrines enunciated by Christ in the course of His earthly ministry which were in a marked degree 'revelations' to the human race. He taught the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Dignity of Womanhood.

I. Consider the position of woman before the advent of Christ. It is acknowledged that in the barbaric nations woman was the abject slave of man. But even amongst the cultured and highly civilised nations of the earth, woman's position was very little higher than that of a slave.

II. Consider also woman as she exists in our own day in non-Christian lands. In Moslem countries women are at the mercy of the caprice and passion of men. The Zenanas of India and China are probably worse than the harem of the Turk; and as for the poorer women, the low-caste women, they are the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the men. When we turn to darkest Africa there we find the 'lord of creation' sitting at his ease while his wives minister to his comfort, and provide for his household. III. With the advent of Christ and His Gospel, and with the spread of Christianity, a new respect was horn for woman. (1) There are her marriage rights. (2) There are the domestic rights of woman. (3) There are the spiritual rights of woman.

T. J. Madden, Tombs or Temples, p. 16.

References. XI. 11. J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 75. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 296. XI. 12. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 335. XI. 16. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 461. XI. 18. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 79. XI. 18, 19. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 14; ibid. vol. ix. p. 9. XI. 18-34. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. i. p. 214. XI. 20. Ibid. vol. iii. p. 275.

1 Corinthians 11:20

Compare Charles Lamb's lines, The Sabbath Bells:

The cheerful Sabbath bells, wherever heard,

Strike pleasant on the sense, most like the voice

Of one, who from the far-off hills proclaims

Tidings of good to Zion: chiefly when

Their piercing tones fall sudden on the ear

Of the contemplant, solitary man,

Whom thoughts abstruse or high have chanced to lure

Forth from the walks of men, revolving oft,

And oft again, hard matter, which eludes

And baffles his pursuit, thought-sick and tired

Of controversy, where no end appears,

No clue to his research, the lonely man

Half wishes for society again.

Him, thus engaged, the Sabbath bells salute

Sudden! his heart awakes; his ears drink in

The cheering music; his relenting soul

Yearns after all the joys of social life,

And softens with the love of human kind.

There was a little Roman Catholic church at the foot of the hill where his own was placed, which he always had to pass on Sundays. He could never look on the thronging multitudes that crowded its pews and aisles or knelt bare-headed on its steps, without a longing to get in among them and go down on his knees and enjoy that luxury of devotional contact which makes a worshipping throng as different from the same members praying apart as a bed of coals is from a trail of scattered cinders.

O. W. Holmes, Elsie Venner (ch. v.).

The Social Value of the Lord's Supper

1 Corinthians 11:20-22

I. The Lord's Supper is a new grouping of men a new principle of classification, without any violent or revolutionary interference with the existing order of things. In the world, differences of rank, age, sex, grouped men and women in the usual way on the night in which Jesus was betrayed. At the supper tables of Pilate and Herod guests were arranged according to the relation they held to the Court, the Temple, the Sanhedrin, and the Exchange. But at one table a new order reigned. Jesus Himself was the centre. The greatest was he who rendered the best service in Christ's kingdom. And all division gave way to love. Now the trouble at Corinth was that they followed the old order of Pilate and Herod, not the new order of Jesus. Weekday differences were reproduced at the Supper. Well, the weekday differences are much the same now as they were in remote ages; and there is not the slightest probability that they will ever be otherwise. But in the Supper we have the means to neutralise differences, to break down the Chinese wall of prejudice, and blend all classes into a loving harmony.

II. But again, a certain measure of friction is inseparable from social life. When Paul heard of troubles in Corinth he did not whine, but accepted them as things not to be avoided, but to be overcome and sanctified. Our feelings are often hurt; bitterness creeps into our souls. Well, in our Lord's Supper we have a means wherewith to repair the ravages life makes in our affections, to heal the hearts' hurt, and make good all the damage done to our friendship by the gales and waves of life.

III. In the Supper, Christ sweetens earthly love with the promise of eternal life, and this should help to make all the relations of home and neighbourhood purer and sweeter. The thought of death is the bitter drop in our cup of love. Horace was moved to unwonted pathos as he thought of the end, and Huxley owned that as the years swept forward to the great cataract, the horror of extinction so possessed him that life, even in a hell, seemed preferable. Well, in the light of the upper room there is no death only transition. Bring your friendship, your married life, bring all loves to feed at Christ's Table. For here the eternal side of things is shown.

IV. And at the same time that it feeds love it nourishes hope. As Christians we all engage, directly or indirectly, in some endeavour to better the world. But often the outlook is so hopeless. Then we relax in our efforts, or we curtail our gifts and starve the work. Well, Jesus foresaw it all. Here is a little festival of hope ordained by Christ. A Supper, not for the body, but solely for the heart. Here is the Bread of heavenly Hope. This is the wine of Assurance.

J. M. Gibbon, Eden and Gethsemane, p. 199.

References. XI. 20-34. D. Martin, Penny Pulpit, No. 1603, p. 223. XI. 21. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 97.

The Contrasts of the Night of Betrayal

1 Corinthians 11:23

This contrast may be distributed in three particulars. There is, in the first place, the contrast of grace with sin; in the second place, of faithfulness with treachery; and in the third place, of love with hate.

I. First: the contrast of grace with sin. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was not a single act. It came to its climax in the kiss given in the garden. But it was a series of thoughts, resolves, decisions. AH of them were known to Jesus. He had watched the tragedy in the heart of Judas as a chemist might watch a process, or a physician might watch the progress of a disease. On that last night He marked the final stage in the course of evil. He saw the fever rise to a burning flame. He heard the betrayal in the words on the lips of Judas. He saw it in the shifty glances of his eyes. He read it in the sullen anger of his heart. All that is hideous and repulsive and pitiless in sin sat down with Him at the feast. We know that it is not the most abandoned profligate who so fully incarnates sin as the man whose face and words are fair, and his cloaked malice inspired by hell. Jesus might have turned aside in loathing, and broken forth in exposing and withering rebuke. Yet with the hand of the betrayer dipping in the same dish with Him He sets up this Sacrament for sinful men. That is the contrast of grace with sin.

'On the same night in which He was betrayed, He took bread.'

II. Second: the contrast of faithfulness with treachery. Our Lord's last night was one of mingled joy and sorrow. It had hours of peace and exaltation, but towards its close the shadows deepened. The shadows of His shrinking from death, of His bewilderment at God's will and way, of His prevision of the cross, of His desertion by His own, and of the burden and shame of His last hour, quenched every joy but the joy set before Him. But the darkest shadow fell on Him from the treachery of Judas. 'Now is my soul troubled,' He cried, and we know where His eyes rested. They had caught sight of the face of Judas. There is no wrong baser than treachery. There is no pain so personal. It is the most execrated of crimes and the most difficult to forgive. In the annals of Scottish history there are two events which stand out as the blackest and foulest to people's minds. They are both deeds of treachery. For generations men have spoken of 'the fause Menteith who betrayed Wallace' with a strangely perpetuated resentment. No later indictment rouses the national feeling like the story of the massacre of Glencoe. Simple Scottish faces grow as dark as the gloomy glen itself when they tell the story to their children. It is due to the same moral reaction against treachery that in every army the traitor is punished with a swift and unrelenting stroke. The deserter from the ranks is treated as a felon. The coward's uniform is stripped from him and he is drummed out of the ranks. The traitor is set with his face to the wall, and the levelled muskets rain death upon him, and his body is cast into an unmarked grave. The man whom you find it difficult to forgive, whose name recalls a deed of falsehood, is the man whose words were fair, whose actions were secretly base. The Gospels reflect this instinctive resentment at the traitor's deed. The Evangelists never mention the name of Judas with compassion. The kindest word is that sombre sentence in Peter's prayer, 'that he might go to his own place'. To the Gospel writers he is always 'Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him'.

But the contrast Paul saw was not simply between a persistent treachery and the absence of resentment, but between that treachery and a persistent faithfulness. The night in which He was betrayed was not only the night of His patience but of His noblest loyalty. Without a murmur, without a bitter word, in faithfulness He goes forward to His cross, to be betrayed. 'On the night on which He was betrayed, Jesus took bread.'

III. Third: the contrast of love with hate. It is, I think, safe to say that this is the deepest contrast in Paul's mind. To Paul the most marvellous thing about Jesus was not His wisdom, nor His holiness, nor His meek endurance. It was His love; that love which to Paul passed knowledge, and constrained him with its resistless force; that love which had not been quenched by his own years of sin. Paul never speaks of Christ's love without seeing the heavens open. He becomes a poet with a poet's vision, and his rugged prose passes into a poet's music. On this night he sees love contrasted with hate. He sees love baffled by hate.

When we read that it was on the night in which He was betrayed that His grace triumphed over sin, His faithfulness over treachery, and His love, though baffled by one whose hate He could not expel, never failed, we can take new heart and find fresh comfort. With whatever disloyalty of heart, in whatever mood of alienation, with whatever lurking purpose of evil, we have come here to this table, we can now, in this moment, yield ourselves to Him whose love not even betrayal could quench.

W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 77.

References. XI. 23. F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 155. Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 434; ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. p. 337; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 25. XI. 23-25. Ibid. vol. x. p. 243.

The Sacramental Remembrance and Testimony

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

I. If we are to reach the inner meaning of this many-sided mystery, we must consider the place and part of the Lord Himself in the upper room. Two symbolic acts and their interpreting words are brought before us. He appears in the midst of the Twelve as a priest, dedicating His own life in its outward form and its inner virtue to the will of the Father and the salvation of the world. At the beginning of His public ministry He had been described, by His own kinsman the Baptist, as the Lamb of God who beareth away the sin of the world; and the Paschal significance of that utterance had perhaps never quite faded away from the minds of those who heard it. Has the Lord Jesus the same part and place in the sacramental celebrations of the future as He assumed in the upper room? Does the first ministrant disappear from the rite, and is His personality merged with the emblems? Of course, the emblems exchange their prophetic for a retrospective meaning, and the benign form, which stood before the disciples, passes out of view. But He is present in the power of His spiritual priesthood, and there is no room for a visible successor to His office.

II. Our Lord defines the motive which must rule disciples in their future celebration of this Covenant Feast. 'Do this in remembrance of Me.' This directing word fixes the standpoint of the participant, and puts the Sacrament into a realm of spiritual affection. Whatever else it may be, its practical value consists in the stimulus it affords to reflection, gratitude, and the homage of the soul. The test of a valid Sacrament is inward and practical. Does it summon up within us thoughts of the spotless offering, and bow our hearts to the love and law of the cross, so fulfilling the Master's hope? Then, no matter what the form observed or the organisation of the church within which it is celebrated, it is just as valid as the sacramental act at which the Pope of Rome, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, officiates; more so, if it melts the heart into a more plastic tenderness, and strengthens the faith into a loftier victory.

III. The Apostle reminds us that this sacred observance is a solemn corporate proclamation of the Lord's death, to be continued until the end of the world. 'As oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come.' The object-lesson presented in the Holy Supper is the quintessence of all Gospel preaching. Wherever celebrated, the voice is heard proclaiming to the four winds that Christ gave Himself for our sins, according to the Scriptures. Whilst the disciples keep their Master's word, the world is compelled to reckon in some way or other with the cardinal doctrine of atonement.

Reference. XI. 23-26. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2638.

The Lord's Supper and Personal Faith

1 Corinthians 11:24

The Lord's Supper is a great symbol. The bread broken symbolises that Jesus Christ, dying for our sins, has become the bread of life. The eating of the bread symbolises the faith of the communicant. Faith thus unites us and Christ inseparably; it gives us an inalienable possession of Christ. Faith then being on our side the great act of the Lord's Supper, let us note more particularly its action therein.

I. We in the Lord's Supper confess our faith. 'We make a confession,' many say, 'when we partake of the Lord's Supper.' They seem to mean that we profess a certain sanctity, or a certain superiority. No; the Lord's Supper is not such a profession, it is rather the confession of our faith. He who partakes, confesses he is unable of himself to attain salvation. 'But,' say others, 'to partake of the Lord's Supper is to profess a great creed.' It is certainly to profess a certain faith. But it is a confession that is experimental, not dogmatic; practical, not theoretic.

II. But the confessing involves the exercising of our faith. In the Lord's Supper, Jesus Christ is most certainly present. His presence does not wait upon the consecrating word of priest. Christ is present as truly before as after the consecrating word of priest or minister. The communicant, discerning the Lord's presence and offer, does there and then receive his Saviour, His truth and grace, His love and spirit.

III. This being so, our third position follows, that in the Lord's Supper we receive nourishment to our faith. The silent impressive appeal of the symbols, the communion of saints, the presence of the Lord, quicken our faith to appropriate and assimilate Jesus Christ, so that our spiritual man is nourished, as our body is, by partaking of its appropriate food. This nourishment, it must be noted, depends upon the activity of the faith of the communicant.

IV. In the Lord's Supper our faith pledges us anew to Christ. If we confess, and exercise our faith in Christ, and receive spiritual nourishment in the Sacrament, our hearts involuntarily consecrate us anew to our blessed Lord. An act of consecration, therefore, should follow the partaking, and be a part of the communion.

A. Goodrich, Eden and Gethsemane, p. 105.

References. XI. 24. F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 625. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 2. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. pp. 77, 78. XI. 24, 25. R. Winterbotham, Sermons on the Holy Communion, p. 26. XI. 24, 25. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 90. XI. 25. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. v. p. 8; ibid. vol. vi. p. 138. XI. 26. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (3rd Series), p. 101. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 111. J. B. Brown, Aids to the Development of the Divine Life. J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 469. J. Cumming, Penny Pulpit, No. 1511, p. 225. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 228. D. C. A. Agnew, The Soul's Business and Prospects, p. 62. Bishop Wilberforce, Sermons, p. 209. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2307; vol. xliv. No. 2595; vol. 1. No. 2872; and vol. li. No. 2942. G. H. Morrison, Scottish Review, vol, i. p. 422. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 60. XI. 27. Ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 297.

Fitness for the Lord's Supper

1 Corinthians 11:28

I. What constitutes fitness for communion? How shall a man prepare for the Lord's Table? Our text says: 'Let a man prove himself. Exactly, but how? For this information we must consult the example and commandment of Jesus Christ Himself. The Supper was instituted by Him for purposes determined by Himself. Jesus, and Jesus only, is our teacher and standard in this matter.

II. And what does Jesus Himself say? 'This is My body which is for you.' The nerve of the whole lies in that emphatic 'My body,' says Weiss. My body, not My flesh, but My body, flesh, and blood, for you. Whatever that means, the Bread in the Sacrament means. First and foremost, this table symbolises atonement, forgiving love.

III. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying: This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, this do, as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of Me, for as often as ye eat this Bread and drink the cup, ye proclaim (ye evangelise) the Lord's death till He come. The bread stands for atonement, forgiveness, grace; the cup for the new covenant, the new union of God with man, and man with his fellow, arising out of atonement

J. M. Gibbon, Eden and Gethsemane, p. 23.

References. XI. 28. T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 133. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 172. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2647; vol. xlvi. No. 2699, and vol. 1. No. 2865. XI. 28-30. H. Bell, Sermons on Holy Communion, p. 11.

1 Corinthians 11:29

'I have known several men, who, though their manner of thinking and living was perfectly rational, could not free themselves from thinking about the sin against the Holy Ghost, and from the fear that they had committed it. A similar trouble threatened me,' says Goethe, in describing his early life, 'on the subject of the communion, for the text that one who unworthily partakes of the Sacrament eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, had, very early, already made a monstrous impression upon me. Every fearful thing that I had read in the histories of the Middle Ages, of the judgments of God, of those most strange ordeals, by red-hot iron, flaming fire, swelling water, and even what the Bible tells us of the draught which agrees well with the innocent, but puffs up and bursts the guilty all this pictured itself to my imagination.... This gloomy scruple troubled me so much... that, as soon as I reached Leipzig, I tried to free myself altogether from my connection with the Church.'

Discerning the Lord's Body

1 Corinthians 11:29

I. He eats unworthily who does not discern the Lord's body.

II. He who does not discern the Lord's body is judged.

III. We are judged in order that we may not be condemned.

A. Maclaren.

The Real Presence

1 Corinthians 11:29

Many have started frightened by the strong words of St. Paul, 'He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation'. In very fear there are some who do not come at all to the table of the Lord. Better that our place be empty than that we eat and drink unworthily. Let this fear only drive us to seek for grace lightly to celebrate this holy ordinance. 'Not discerning the Lord's body.' One thing it cannot mean. It cannot mean that any priest can by any service or authority transform the bread and wine into the Body of Christ. He who takes it makes it the Sacrament; not he who gives it.

I. Let us consider devoutly what makes this Sacrament a fitting memorial of the Lord. Many have sought in other ways to recall that life and death such ways as naturally suggest themselves. By many kinds of penance, by fasting, by humiliation, by gloom and grief men have sought to recall the Man of Sorrows. And they are right if the Church of today has but a cross and a grave. But He is here. Not a dead Christ or a departed Saviour is it that thus we celebrate, but One who saith, 'Lo, I am with you alway'.

II. See here a gracious provision for all time. This Sacrament means that for Him and for us the cruel limits of time and place are broken.

III. We discern herein the gracious brotherliness of our Lord. As He came of old so would He come to us, at home with us, sitting down at our tables. He would not be to us a stranger afar off, a mystery of awe too sacred for any place but the altar, too glorious for any moment but of worship. He would be one with us in the common round of life, teaching us that when we eat and drink we can do it to the highest glory of God.

IV. These very elements do help us to discern the Lord as the Saviour. The commonest and lowest of our wants is made to help our faith. By earth's poor bread He feeds our faith. He hath given Himself for me that He may give Himself to me.

M. G. Pearce, The Preacher's Magazine, vol. VI. p. 70.

References. XI. 29. J. Bolton, Selected Sermons (2nd Series), p. 84. J. Watson, The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 274. XI. 30. J. M. Whiton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 164. XI. 30-32. Expositor (5th Series), vol. iv. p. 437. XI 31. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of St. Paul, p. 65. XI. 31, 32. J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 458.

1 Corinthians 11:32

There is nothing the body suffers that the soul may not profit by.

Meredith.

All sorrow is an enemy, but it carries within it a friend's message, too.

Carlyle.

References. XI. 32. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2746. XI. 42. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Corinthians, p. 168. XII. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 82. XII. 1. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of St. Paul, p. 81. XII. 3. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 244. J. Baines, Twenty Sermons, p. 221. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of St. Paul, p. 95. Phillips Brooks, The Mystery of Iniquity, p. 90. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 158. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. pp. 45, 292.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-corinthians-11.html. 1910.